View Full Version : How will we know when (if) we have "won" in Iraq?

SSG Rock
09-11-2006, 02:00 PM
I'm asked this question all the time and I'm not sure how to respond. So, I'd like to ask the membership. How do we determine we have "won" in Iraq?

I tell them that it will be a gradual process and that we won't "win" in the classic military sense. That if we are successful the insurgency will lose it's momentum and slowly fizzle out. But I'm not able to come up with a satisfactory answer to the question, even for myself.

How do we know if we have "won?"

Steve Blair
09-11-2006, 02:29 PM
You "win" when you create conditions that allow the transfer of power and responsibility to the Iraqi government, if that is your political objective. It really comes down to when the political conditions for "victory" are met. If those conditions center on crushing the insurgency, then we will be there for a long time to come.

One reason people may ask this question is that we have done a poor job of spelling out exactly what we mean by victory and winning. We "won" in Korea, but we're still there. The same could be said of Germany. Clearly one was more of a "win" than the other, but both still have U.S. forces deployed on their soil.

I'm not meaning to quibble at all, just thinking out loud on the various meanings of victory and winning.

09-11-2006, 04:15 PM
Not trying to be flippant but I always thought winning a war was determined by when the enemy was either incapable or unwilling to fight anymore? If that is the case have the actual objectives over the last four years been the right objectives?

Steve Blair
09-11-2006, 04:42 PM
Not trying to be flippant but I always thought winning a war was determined by when the enemy was either incapable or unwilling to fight anymore? If that is the case have the actual objectives over the last four years been the right objectives?

Winning a war in the political sense involves meeting your stated objectives. It's not a flippant answer on your part, but more tied into what the United States has come to believe is the objective of all conflicts. "The American way of war" is what I believe Crefeld and others have come to call it. It's a very complicated question for one that sounds so simple.

Bill Moore
09-13-2006, 12:52 AM
The President's stated objective is to develop a secure, stable, and democratic Iraq, so anything less that would be short of a victory. I think most of us realize that if this is even achievable it is several years down the road. The same holds true for Afghanistan. Maybe we need to swallow our pride a little and get off the democracy kick, and simply put in an "effective" government that will deny these areas to terrorists and provide some level of security and economic viability for its people.

A lot of folks were very critical of Collin Powell and his Powell doctrine, but I think (hope) their opinions have softened. There are definite limits to what the military can accomplish, thus the the absolute importance of defining clear and achievable military objectives prior to committing military force. The failure to do so indicates that we committed our natural treasure on lofty ideas vice a well thought out strategy.

Look beyond Iraq at the Global War on terror and try to articulate what victory looks like. If you can't do that, is it possible to develop a strategy?

09-13-2006, 10:55 AM
Is there an over/under for a date when we let this off-kilter flywheel of a country break apart? I am surprised at how few pundits/media/bloggers are looking at Iraq as a middle-east version of Yugoslavia. There are significant ethnic, language, and religious divisions that long predate the emergence of a "unified" country. Just as Yugoslavia was cobbled together post-WWI, Iraq was born from British fingers drawing lines in the sand after the fall of the Ottomans. I see no compelling reason for this political entity to remain together much longer, regardless of what we, or the Saudis, or the Iranians want. Any ideas?

09-13-2006, 05:12 PM
Mybe it is about time, considering the degrading situation, to put partition on a referendum. To try and hold the country together against possible future indicators that say it will burst at the seams, is foolish.

Bill Moore
09-13-2006, 05:21 PM
If we don't have a clearly defined definition of what a military victory is (what equates to setting conditions for political objectives), in our various conflicts (under the umbrella of GWOT), then we open the door to letting the enemy define victory and to deny it. We take the initiative when we say we say what we mean and do it. We give the initiative to the enemy when we have ambiguous, lofty, and city on the hill endstates.

USMC8652 we discussed the Yugoslav parallel in previous posts, and unfortunately what is happening in Iraq was predicted by several regional experts in 2002. Tito and Saddam were effective leaders for these types of States. You either replace them with a similar type leader, leave them in place, or step back and let history take its course.

We had two clearly achievable military objectives in Iraq:

1. Remove Saddam from power.
2. Exploit suspected WMD sites.

In my opinion both were justified, though I don't agree with the timing. Now a real strategy would have provided a realistic exit plan after those achievable objectives were completed.